The Other Side: New Orleans Hornets
A whole lot has been said and written about the New Orleans Hornets' botched attempt to send Tyson Chandler to Oklahoma City for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox. I took a shot at it in today's newspaper, explaining the side of the organization and Chandler. The Hornets made the deal in part because of financial concerns, but also because the team wasn't rebounding well or getting the same results as last season.
But when Chandler returned with 15 points and 10 rebounds against Sacramento on Feb. 23, the Hornets re-discovered their mojo, winning seven consecutive games before losing, 89-79, in Atlanta on Monday. The Hornets, though, can be encouraged by their play since the Chandler deal collapsed on Feb. 18. After ranking last in rebounding through the first 51 games, the Hornets have averaged 51.5 rebounds per game over their past 11 games, which ranks first in the league over that time.
The Hornets (39-23) are currently sixth in the Western Conference, but just 1 ½ games behind Houston for third in the Southwest Division. They have a very favorable schedule with eight of their next 11 games against teams with losing records. New Orleans will continue its four-game Eastern Conference trip tonight in Washington, then head to Milwaukee and Chicago, before a five-game homestand against Houston, Minnesota, Memphis, Golden State and Denver.
Here's what else you should know about the Hornets as they prepare to play the Washington Wizards tonight at Verizon Center:
1. David West Is Balling
David West was a somewhat surprising choice as an all star this season with the Hornets' first-half struggles and his inability to match his inspired play from last season. But since returning from Phoenix, West has been playing like he is trying to earn that credential. West has had 12 double-doubles -- including seven in a row -- scored 30 or more points four times. He is averaging 23.2 points and 11.4 rebounds. West was recently named Western Conference player of the week and he had a career-high 20 rebounds on Monday.
2. Peja Stojakovic Is Having a Rough Year, Now He's Hurt
Tyson Chandler took a lot of heat for the Hornets' struggles this season, but Peja Stojakvoic's poor shooting has been a major concern. Stojakovic has missed the past three games with a lower back problem, but even when he was on the floor, he failed to knock down threes as he did in the past. Stojakovic is shooting just 40.5 percent from the floor and 38.2 percent (130-for-340) from behind the three-point arc. Stojakovic hit 231 three pointers last season, which ranked second in the NBA. This season, he is eighth. Julian Wright has started in his absence, but Rasual Butler has quietly made up for Stojakovic's limited production. Butler is averaging career-highs in scoring (11.2) and rebounding (3.3) as the starting shooting guard.
3. The Bench Is a Problem
Chris Paul is having one of the best seasons ever by a point guard, but he won't be able to win an NBA championship without a little more support. The Hornets added James Posey this summer and traded for Antonio Daniels last December, but while Posey has been better than expected, Coach Byron Scott has yet to find consistent and reliable production from his second unit. New Orleans might be a team that nobody wants in the first round, but that doesn't change the fact that David West and Paul are forced to play too many minutes because the reserves offer little security. Morris Peterson has been out the past 20 games with a foot injury. Scott has hinted that rotation changes could be on the way.
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